Cirque Us performs high-flying acrobatics at The Actors Gymnasium


Jacob Wendler/Daily Senior Staffer

The six-person cast performed four shows at The Actors Gymnasium in Evanston this weekend as a part of their national tour.

Jacob Wendler, Copy Editor

Although trash day on Noyes Street usually occurs Wednesday, the Noyes Cultural Arts Center was littered with garbage cans Saturday and Sunday for a trash-themed circus show. With four performances at The Actors Gymnasium, circus troupe Cirque Us brought daring aerials, acrobatics and juggling to Evanston this weekend.

The four shows were part of the third national tour of “One Man’s Trash: A Repurposed Circus,” a “junkyard adventure” that aims to channel teamwork and community through the performing arts. The tour spans more than 15 cities, from Boston to Madison, Wisconsin, over seven weeks.

The show’s plot centered around several “trash people” searching for light bulbs to light up their community as they sorted through several trash bags. At times, their adventures were narrated by a radio host cheekily named “Canderson Ooper.”

Cirque Us Founder and Director of Operations Doug Stewart said he founded the New England-based performance group in 2016 with the goal of sharing his love for circus with others.

“The main theme is about spreading circus magic, which is something that other art forms get close to, but there’s nothing that does it like circus does,” he said. “The teamwork and collaboration and community of it all is just something that’s really beautiful, and getting to share that message with so many people is something that we love doing.”

This weekend marked the second time Cirque Us has performed at The Actors Gymnasium, but the connection between the two groups goes back much further — Cirque Us Production Manager Justin Durham, a performer in the show, trained at The Actors Gymnasium as a child.

Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi, artistic director and co-founder of The Actors Gymnasium, said the performances represented a full-circle moment for her.

“I feel like a proud parent when (Durham) comes back,” she said. “It demonstrates where he’s taken this training that started when he was 9 and just a little boy with a crazy amount of energy, and he’s honed it to something that was really successful for him.”

The show, which ran about 90 minutes with an intermission, featured acts such as hand balancing, diabolo and aerial rope. It also included immersive elements, with the cast inviting audience members onstage for a game of musical chairs.

Samuel Simon, who attended the Sunday matinee, said he enjoyed this interactive element.

“I took juggling lessons here 21 years ago,” Simon said. “It’s really nice to be back, and it was fun to be dipped into musical chairs.”

Hernandez-DiStasi said while she is selective about which external groups she allows to use the space, collaborating with Cirque Us was a natural choice due to the trust she’s built with the company.

She added that its family-friendly vibe matches The Actors Gymnasium’s artistic and educational philosophy.

“They’re highly skilled acrobats and they really embody what circus is about, being multiskilled,” Hernandez-DiStasi said. “They’re jugglers and acrobats and aerialists, and they do a lot of partner work. And it really is what The Actors Gym is about.”

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